WACO — Three minutes into the FCA Victory Bowl All-Star Game on Saturday night, the Red Team attempted a 40-yard pass against the Blue Team which cornerback Bobby Joe Nielsen promptly broke up.
One minute later, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Nielsen was ready when another long bomb was headed his way.
This time, instead of a knockdown, Nielsen made the touchdown-saving pick.
None of this would be all that unusual — an all-star corner making two big plays in an all-star contest — except for one fact.
Nielsen doesn’t play cornerback.
He doesn’t play safety either. And, no, he’s not a wide receiver.
He’s a long-snapper. Period.
“That’s how I made this all-star team, just as a long-snapper,” said Nielsen, who recently graduated from Lampasas. “I played, maybe, six plays on defense the entire season. That’s all I thought I would be doing this week for the Blue Team — long-snap.”
However, some special rules for this all-star contest — to help prevent injuries — made long-snapping irrelevant. Rushing the punter was not allowed and neither team was permitted to return a punt. No rushing was allowed on any field goal or extra-point attempt, either.
“So the all-star coaches here told me I’d be playing cornerback,” Nielsen said. “I picked it up in four days of practice. I’m a pretty quick learner. I had a knack for it.”
Throughout the rest of Saturday’s contest, Nielsen yielded no big plays and, in fact, knocked down several more attempted passes.
“I was so excited this week in practices,” Nielsen said. “Usually, I’m doing solitary work. Usually, I practice for 30 to 45 minutes and I’m done. So, instead, I had a lot of team interaction this week and it was a lot of fun.”
So how come he didn’t start at corner for Lampasas?
“We had a really good defensive core at Lampasas,” Nielsen said. “Two of my friends played corner and they are both far better than I am.”
Nielsen was ranked the No. 2 long-snapper in Texas and No. 35 in America. He can snap a football 15 yards in 0.6 seconds.
“Long-snapping is what got me here,” he said. “Being able to play any more football than that is just a bonus.”
Nielsen accepted a partial athletic scholarship to long-snap for Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls.
“I would play corner if my college coaches would let me,” Nielsen said. “But I don’t think they’ll let me.”
Once they see the tapes of the 2014 FCA Victory Bowl All-Star Game.